What are the building blocks of a great game? Markus Persson might have asked himself that question over 10 years ago, when he sat down to create Minecraft.
The answer turned out to be simple: the building blocks themselves.
Now it looks like Minecraft is about to place another block on its way to universal domination. Microsoft, who bought the brand from Persson in 2014, has announced Minecraft Earth, an augmented reality version of the game in the vein of Pokemon Go.
Just like Nintendo’s global phenomenon, Minecraft Earth will use the real world as the canvas for playing, with mobile phones and tablets becoming a portal to the world of creepers, endermen and blocky masterpieces.
Minecraft Earth will allow players to build small-scale augmented creations at home, on a kitchen table for example, before taking those creations outside and placing them, full scale, in the real world. There, other players will be able to see your creation and interact with or modify it.
This is an incredibly ambitious idea, one with the potential to change augmented reality gaming in the same way Minecraft changed regular gaming. Imagine walking in your local park, only to see filled with a giant castle.
In addition to the building aspects, Minecraft Earth will also allow players to collect resources by exploring the real world and there’s a strong implication that creepers and endermen will be present too, which might mean some form of combat.
While the idea sounds amazing in principle, it’s not hard to imagine some of the challenges involved. For a start, it will be impossible for Microsoft to regulate exactly where buildings and constructs can be placed, meaning we could see some very messy constructs flooding the augmented world. We can also imagine people taking advantage of the system and creating models that may not be suitable for all ages.
The beta for Minecraft Earth will be released later in the summer, so we don’t have long to wait before the idea is put to the test. In the meantime, Microsoft have also announced the original Minecraft has become the biggest selling game of all time, reaching 176m copies.
Still, with Minecraft Earth, it sounds like it is building towards something even bigger — by taking a small step into the real world.
While Microsoft is racing towards augmented reality, Sega is just racing. Its latest kart-racing game, Team Sonic Racing, adds a twist to the typical formula by allowing for teamwork. For example, in a race with 12 people, there can be four squads of three, with members of a squad allowed to pass items between each other, save each other from spinning out and even get boosts by driving in each other’s slipstreams. It’s a cool concept that works well.
However, despite the addition of a team element, Team Sonic Racing is a slight step down from Sega’s previous release, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed , which forced players to transform between karts, boats, and planes mid-track. In Team Sonic Racing, you only drive karts.
Another downside is that Team Sonic Racing has a roster that focuses only on Sonic’s universe, while the All-Stars games pulled characters and references from Sega’s many classics. Still, with so few rivals in the kart racing genre, Team Sonic is good enough to warrant a purchase.
Finally, if Minecraft isn’t enough, you can try building your own Mario levels in Super Mario Maker 2, which will release on June 28. This sequel includes a host of new features, including co-op play, which allows players to build together on the same console, and for four players to play through levels together. There is also a slew of new themes and characters to work with and new music from series legend Koji Kondo.